Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More 2011 Retail Trends (and what you can do about em!)

We gave you the first five retail trends for 2011, and, as we promised, get ready for trends 6 through 11:

#6 Group Coupons
We have written in the past about Groupon and the many imitators. The group coupon phenomenon  has marketing and advertising agencies in a frenzy to promote brands and products through this relatively inexpensive promotional channel. Groupon is the clear "it girl" of this marketing ploy, so look for more retailers to join up in 2011.

What Can You Do?
We still see Groupon as a great way to partner with other groups on your campus community. With the relatively captive market on campus, combined with your database of student emails, trying a Groupon like marketing idea would not only speak through the noise of all the twitter and facebook marketing, but also creates some interest from students, who like to save as a group!

#7 Value of Social Media?
Seems like every company in the world has a Facebook page, or Twitters, or has a presence on every social networking site in the atmosphere. But is any of it of any value? Are users engaging? Most of it is just noise and more promotional harping. Advertising agencies are starting to pull back a bit from this channel, carefully selecting what promotions should be pushed out through networking sites. The key to success seems to be campaigns that engage (on line games for example), have some humour, and add value to the customer (coupons to portable devices).

What Can you do?
Stop twittering every sale! Make sure your twitter posts are something special and interesting and make customers stop and think. We like the stores that twitter some interesting campus news (authors on campus, faculty awards etc) that have a store tie in. As for Facebook, make sure you are updating information on a regular basis, and add relevant content (remember value?) to your page.

#8 Gift Wrapping Your Way to Success.
Out Christmas shopping in the bygone age of 2010, we noticed that retailers have eliminated boxes for gift giving and gift wrapping services. It is all part of retailers cutting costs and snipping every expense possible to help the bottom line.

What Can You Do?
Like many small independent retailers, offering free boxes and wrapping services can really help to distinguish yourself from all the other big chains. It is very low cost, and is a value added service for the campus customer. Yet another service you can offer, buying some goodwill on campus.

#9 The Customer Roars
2010 was the year that customers found success in sharing their bad service stories on line. Airlines with lost luggage, cell phone bills, product malfunctions, customer service horror stories. Now the customer is not sharing with 10 people, but millions. National retailers are investing large sums of cash and resources  to monitor and respond quickly to negative press.

What Can You Do?
Respond quickly to negative comments. Post them, along with your (thoughtful) response on your webpage/facebook! Assign someone on staff to watch wall posts on campus sites about the store, and listen to the tweeting of the campus crowd. You might also want to check with your college marketing or IT department about automated systems that track comments for you. No, you won't stop complaints. However, quickly reacting to customer feedback means that you are responsive and interested in their opinions.

#10 Free Wi-Fi
More and more national chains are adding free Wi-Fi for customer's mobile devices. The old world idea was to offer this service so customers would browse and stay in your store longer. The new world thought is to offer free Wi-Fi so customers can check competitors prices. It sounds counter intuitive, but it seems to be paying dividends to retailers that are encouraging this type of price comparison in their stores.

What Can You Do?
This "Wi-Fi-mobile-device-in-store-price-comparison" works best with large ticket items such as appliances or electronics. Yet, we got to thinking that this could be great for campus stores and textbook prices. Offering (and promoting) this offering to your student customers shows that you are confident in your pricing, you have the item in stock, and that you are convenient and trusted. Sure the customer can browse your competitors, but since they are standing in the store, and the book is right there, we think they will choose your offering more times than they will a competitor.

#11 Finally.....PINK!
No, not Pink the singer, or PINK, the store. We mean PINK the colour. Pink is showing up everywhere this year, from home design to fashion. We guess retailers and brand developers started to notice how sales increased with pink products for Breast Cancer Awareness, and decided to carry this colour scheme into the whole of 2011. So pink is everywhere.

What Can You Do?
Embrace the pink? Look for items to sell in this colour scheme during your buying trips. You can consider it for many of you store product categories. And, don't forget, Pink is not just for women anymore!

That's our predictions for the year. We might be wrong, or barking up the wrong tree, or sending you on a wild goose chase. But, our pink hued crystal ball that we gaze in can only show us so much.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 Retail Trends (and what you can do about em)

2011! Hopefully you have had a great start to the new 11 year. In the gloom of January we amused ourselves by finding not 10 but 11 trends for 2011. And,  we added some ideas on how you can capitalize on these upcoming trends.
Here's the first five:

#1 - Consumer Price Sensitivity
As the recession drags on, customers are still looking for a deal. Pricing of product offerings need to be just right. Fair pricing is fine, but customers are expecting to stretch their dollar, and have retailers to assist them through bargain basement prices.

What can you do? 
Time to revisit your price strategy. Look at your profit margins and consider how you might be able to increase sales by lowering margins and focusing on volume. This works best in supplies and stationery product groups, as well as seasonal merchandise. You can also connect with dollar store wholesalers (there are many), where some informed and well considered low price point items can lure customers into your store. 

#2 - Grim days in Cotton Prices
Did you know that raw cotton prices increased by 91% last year? We are certain that this price spike will not be covered by wholesalers, but passed on to retail buyers and ultimately the consumer. Since all those Ts and sweatshirts are made of cotton, expect that your price points will need to rise to accomodate the manufacture price increases.

What can you do?
This might be the time to distinquish yourself from competitors. Consider sourcing garments made from other fabrics, such as rayon. You can really step apart from the crowd by sourcing garments made from recycled materials. Although expensive in the past, now might be the time to introduce them to your customer base.

#3 End of Baby Boomer culture.
Baby Boomers may wax glowingly over Sixties and Seventies culture, but now is the year for Gen X and Gen Y to go all nostalgic. Those in the alpha generation are taking over the culture cues in movies, music and fashion. So, expect lots of plaid to make its way back as "grunge nostalgia" hits. The upcoming release of "The Smurfs" animated movie is another example of the culture power from these demographic groups.

What can you do?
Time to reintroduce plaid into your product categories, and take a fun risk by stocking up on some Smurf like merchandise. Or Yogi Bear merchandise. Noticed how much the new Yogi movie has done at the box office?

#4 Death of the movie rental store.
The neighbourhood movie rental store is dead. Blockbuster is on its last legs, and everyone seems to have adopted Netflix and RedBox as the way to rent movies. Now movie rental kiosks are a common site at many retailers like WalMart and most grocery store chains.

What can you do?
Ride the wave. Consider setting up a movie rental kiosk in or around your store. It's a great, inexpensive way to provide a new and convenient service to your campus customers! Plus it's an easy product entry. Simply provide the space and power in your store and the rental company does the rest. Not a huge profit generator, but a great new service while drawing customers into your store.

#5 The Campus Invasion
 A number of national retailers have been wooing the college store customer on campus through pop up stores, campus events and promotions. Now WalMart has plans to open a store within a college campus community. With retailers looking to increase market share, the college campus commuinty is suddenly of interest. Look for more retailers to follow WalMart's lead as the next few years play out.

What can you do?
Campus administrators get all gaga when companies like WalMart come to their door pitching ideas. Time to brush off your presentation on the VALUE of the college store on campus, and focus on how large mass merchants can really hurt the store (and college) bottom line. If you have not talked to your boss about the college store contribution to operating revenues, scholarshps and student life, now if the time to do so.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reusable Canvas bags - Boon or blight?

How may reusable canvas bags do you own for your shopping excursions? Me? I have a bunch. More than I need. Some in the trunk of my car, thinking that would be convenient, but generally forgotten when I hit the grocery store.  Another multi-branded selection on my coat rack that I actually use. If I look in one of my ubiquitous junk closets, I'll find more of those pesky canvas creatures. 

And, I'm not the only one. Retailers roll out the canvas bag at a frightening rate these days. One national retailer says that they sell 35 million canvas bags a year. They are available at almost every retailer (including  7-11 convenience stores). Retailers love them both for their environmentally sustainable message, as well as a new marketing message, branding the retailer's message and logo for all to see. 

I started to wonder if all these tote bags were a good thing. Soon I realized that I am not the only one. 

First is the sheer quantity of canvas bag offerings. I don't need 3 dozen reusable bags. They are reusable! they don't really wear out, and even during my greatest shopping binges I really don't need that many bags at any one time. So, like promotional T-shirts, the canvas tote bag has become clutter. I don't need or want any more. 

Then, a 2009 study is released.  Indicating that nearly two-thirds of reusable bags tested contained some bacteria, including fecal intestinal bacteria! I don't know where your bags have been, but I can assure you that MINE have not been invaded with any fecal intestinal bacteria. That because I now wash and dry my canvas totes obsessively since hearing of this study. In the washer and dryer they go. I hope I don't have to buy an autoclave for all my Target and WalMart And Safeway totes. 

As soon as I finished sterilizing my auto parts store totes ( howI ended up with some of these  puppies was a sad story of failed windshield washers in a seasonal monsoon), and feeling confident that I could put food items in my newly cleansed safeway totes, came news that they may contain lead! 

Lead! The blight of offshore product importation. National chains such asLuluLemon, Sears, Winn-Dixie and others have had to stop selling, recalling or offering refunds on their  lead infused totes. Personally I'm not worried about any lead in my totes. Food doesn't stay in them very long, and I can't image myself licking or chewing on the bags anytime soon. So I'm safe. 

Finally, no matter how free of lead and bacteria my tote bags are, my sense of environmental stewardship was recently attacked by reports that reusable bags might not be as green as we think. That's because, like everything else, they are manufactured offshore - mainly China. They are made from a mix of recycled and non recycled plastics, and then shipped thousands of miles to happy consumer junk closets. Hence,  the carbon footprint utilized to manufacture these unused totes is fairly large. 

So i've resigned myself to the canvas bag woes. Maybe I can reduce my guilt by just not using any bags of any kind. I'll carry my groceries one by one to the car. Or, shop at costco and grab an empty cardboard box. And, when I'm not doing that, ill refuse any more reusable canvas totes from everyone. 

Who knew shopping bags were such an issue? It's a minefield of choices I say. Gotta go though. My autoclave if ringing.